"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reality


Over the last few days, it has come to light that the whole balloon boy saga was a hoax. If you don’t know what the balloon boy saga even is, then you must have been vacationing somewhere without television, newspapers, or the ability to tweet or reach Facebook.

When the first blips of the story began to filter through the airwaves and the internet, I was annoyed that any parent would leave something as enticing as a floating, silvery, quasi-spaceship within access of any little boy and his Star Wars fueled imagination.

But as the day wore on, I wondered if this adrenaline junkie father had a bright idea for publicity that he didn’t completely think through. I felt guilty for even thinking such a thing. Then, I found my suspicions were correct, and I wasn’t the only one who thought the whole thing suspect.

I haven’t been able to figure out why this has made me so angry. For obvious reasons, yes. But, I have been more angry and upset than I can remember about this story than others like it. I am furious that a parent or parents would use their child as a bargaining chip to try and find reality-tv fame. I am incensed thinking about the level of manipulation that took place in that household, and how stressful it must have been for a six-year-old to handle. Now, add to this the fact that that same six-year-old will undoubtedly feel guilt for the charges his parents face and the negative scrutiny on their whole family.

But I think what makes me angriest of all is the hold that reality tv shows have on the country right now. I have been as guilty as anyone of watching some of these shows, and even in horror at times, have been unable to look away. But not only are some of the shows distasteful, ridiculous, and at times frightening, the quest to be a part of these fiascoes is more of all of those things.

Average middle-class people now see the new get rich scheme: exploit the worst possible parts of yourself, exaggerate everything, be bigger and worse than you can imagine, and wait for the audience. And, they will come.

The networks are to blame. The Bad Girls Club, Bridezillas,—I mean seriously. These shows are nothing more than filming people who are borderline sociopaths at their worst, and bating them to heighten the craziness.

The newest crop of shows to me is even scarier. The premise—such as with the show Reality Hell—is to pull in unsuspecting fame chasers by “casting” them in a reality tv show, which in truth is all a set up, made to humiliate them. If no one in the network boardroom can see the writing on the wall—that these humiliation-based plot lines will undoubtedly end badly one day—really badly—I am at a loss.

So, yes the networks are to blame. But, the viewers are just as guilty. As larger and larger audiences tune in every week to watch the next televised train wreck, and the networks strive to make their wreck bloodier for sweeps week, the blame seems evenly split.
I have to wonder also…these people who so desperately want this chance for reality show stardom…have they not paid attention? What relationships have survived the daily presence of cameras and the 24 hour audience watching and criticizing their every move? What marriages have ended? What families have been torn apart? It is inevitable. The media scrutiny of the whole Jon and Kate Plus 8 scandal should be a lesson for everyone, including the network brass AND the viewers. Who are these shows really benefiting? You can argue different sides. But I can tell you one thing for damn sure, those eight children are not benefiting one iota.

Looking at the guide on my television screen, giving me options of what to view, I am astounded as to how few shows aren’t reality shows. I don’t want to be left with only the choice of The Girls Next Door or The Kardashians or Kendra to watch. I find myself turning off the television in disgust more often lately, which these days, is not a bad thing.

Like this economic recession we are all struggling through right now, I hope that the television mudslide of reality programming somehow corrects itself. At the very least, I hope there is some hesitation in programs featuring children. I know the odds on that, though. As families break apart before our very eyes, and the two sides split, the only lesson learned seems to be how to pit one side against the other, and from the shattered pieces, create competing shows.

I wonder if Falcon Heene wouldn’t have fared better floating off in that balloon.

21 comments:

Cheri Pryor October 20, 2009 at 4:11 AM  

I don't watch reality tv for a myriad of reasons, but by far the biggest reason is that it makes me VERY uncomfortable to sit and watch someone's personal drama unfold. It makes me sad, embarrassed and upset for those people.

So I just turn the channel.

btw...SO. DONE. With the balloon boy story. What goes around comes around and these parents are in for a whopper. I feel horrible for the child. Simply horrible. But I think the legal ramifications facing those people might (a big *might* here) make others stop and take notice before they act like stupid idiots.

Reality tv = our world coming closer and closer to the movie "Idiocracy". Scary!

m.clifford October 20, 2009 at 4:54 AM  

This is a well written, well informed blog. I too do everything in my powers to avoid reality TV shows such as the UK version of Big Brother.

Admittedly I watched the first series as I found it to be a rather interesting sociological experiment.

However after then, the TV network started to worry about ratings and so more and more the show became about finding a selection of the most disfunctional, neurotic people around in order to provide entertainment and cheap laughs.

Keep up the good work Kim!


Check out my blog if you get the chance at: http://mattcliff.blogspot.com/

Karen October 20, 2009 at 8:22 AM  

I don't watch reality TV for reasons you put very eloquently above. If we'de just turn the channel, shut it off... there would be no reality TV.

~**Dawn**~ October 20, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

I do not care for reality tv. (I live in reality, thanks. I want to be entertained by things decided not reality when I turn on my tv.) But I am assaulted with all the hype of the reality shows & the one thing that springs to my mind is that not a single one of these shows is designed to build people up. It is all a sick celebration of their personal destruction. That makes me sad.

RMB October 20, 2009 at 10:29 AM  

It isn't just reality TV. Try watching Fox News - propaganda posing as news. But you are correct that reality TV (and much entertainment today) appeals to the base and simpleton in all of us. I think that perhaps we are so fascinated because seeing others' weakness and stupidity distracts us from our own.
www.rmbpcola.blogspot.com

Angella Lister October 20, 2009 at 10:52 AM  

I confess, there are some reality TV shows I do watch (Top Chef, Project Runway, that ilk) and as m. clifford above noted, the sociological and psychological reveal can be utterly fascinating. I have no stomach for those shows that are about nothing but aggrandizement and humiliation (Bridezillas, Real Housewives, etc). But where do we split the hair? I don't presume to know, so maybe, even though I think contestants in shows like Top Chef and Project Runway have much to gain, I'm contributing to the moral morass all the same. Thoughtful post.

Steven Anthony October 20, 2009 at 11:11 AM  

I am a reality tv junkie.....I even watch the bad ones, just cant help myself.....but this dad.....arggggggggg ;(

Fresh Local and Best October 20, 2009 at 11:52 AM  

I'm disgusted as well with the audacity of the parents to attempt such a wide reaching and large-scale manipulation. It was a pathetic attempt that could of had some serious repercussion diverting the state's emergency resources. And the poor 6-year old, I love the innocence of a child, and he is learning a very hard and complex lesson brought on by his parents.

Pat October 20, 2009 at 12:29 PM  

I am SO DONE with the Balloon Boy incident. I am glad that the parents are being fined $2 million. I admit that at first I believed the father - he seemed sincere and shook up.

The only reality shows I watch are more "competition shows" like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol. I tape the shows and zip through all the talking and just listen or watch the talent. I can't stand or watch any other of the crap that's considered Reality Shows.

Chef E October 20, 2009 at 12:34 PM  

I agree, my first thought was the father, and I had no second thought...

No reality tv here, I am a poet/writer, and run an open mic, so I focus on what I already know to be far better for our minds than some of that junk on tv... Have you ever noticed actors do not let their kids, or try, because I am sure like my own children at one time watched tv at their friends houses, they state they do not allow their kids to watch movies, as if they are raising perfect children...kids follow in their parents foot steps most of the time...

Gosh I hope I do not get hate mail from that comment :)

Apryl October 20, 2009 at 1:51 PM  

Give me well written fiction anyday, my life has enough reality in it.

I think its also ridiculous.

Sandra October 20, 2009 at 4:12 PM  

I too felt angry over this Balloon Boy fiasco. That poor kid got physically ill twice in two different interviews and I am inclined to think it is a result of the guilt and anxiety associated with this story! I feel sorry for the children of parents who try to use them as bait for reality tv shows.

I don't mind reality tv but it comes in the form of So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol. Shows that are a little more beneficial and wholesome as opposed to the other slew of shows out there. Sometimes I am thankful I don't have tv!

Lilithas October 20, 2009 at 6:24 PM  

I think it's ridiculous, too. I mean, really - television is supposed to be an escape. You want reality? Switch to the news.

Personally, the only reality TV show I've ever watched was Newlyweds (which proves your point; that marriage didn't last, either). Some parts of your life just HAVE to be private. Imagine being trailed by a camera all day long.

Blegh. Anyway, thanks for the wonderful post.

Rich October 21, 2009 at 2:47 AM  

Reality tv isn't real. It is probably more scripted, posed, and angled than a "drama" is. Never watched it never will. The balloon boy thing though, just wow. But when you think about it, are Michael Jackson's parents any better for pimping his kids in there new "reality show"? They pimped him out when he was little, and now they get a shot at his kids to keep the gravy train going. Just pathetic really.

Entrepreneur Chick October 22, 2009 at 10:28 AM  

I do not watch t.v. anymore at all. Best decision I've ever made. My life is so peaceful, it's ridiculous.

I'm fairly sure the world can go on without me knowing every little microblip that happens.

In Real Life October 23, 2009 at 10:18 AM  

I didn't hear about the balloon boy incident until it was all over and already suspected of being a hoax - I just felt despair for that little boy and his sibling. How sad for him to be put in that situation. It was definitely poor judgment on part of the parents.
I also think that most reality tv shows are junk. However, I must confess that I watch Biggest Loser, it transforms lives and has helped to inspire my own weight loss and to keep me motivated on my journey.

DNAcinema October 25, 2009 at 9:53 AM  

ciao! ha aperto i battenti il nuovo portale di cinema direttamente dagli studios di Cinecittà. News, recensioni, anteprime, foto, video e tanto altro ancora; e se vuoi collaborare con noi scrivendo recensioni scrivici @ dnacinema@yahoo.it http://dnacinema.blogspot.com/ P.S. Complimenti per il blog, ottimo lavoro! (saresti daccordo per un'affiliazione? ci terrei particolarmente...) A presto! Lorenzo

Nailah Maahes October 26, 2009 at 7:23 AM  

I think that your blog absolutely fantastic. If you update these types of post then your blog is best then others. too felt angry over this Balloon Boy fiasco. That poor kid got physically ill twice in two different interviews and I am inclined to think it is a result of the guilt and anxiety associated with this story! I feel sorry for the children of parents who try to use them as bait for reality tv shows.

Rainysoul November 2, 2009 at 5:58 AM  

I don't actually watch much TV at all. I watch Hulu, lol. Sometimes its odd, when I don't know the latest movies out, because I get to miss a lot of the commercials, but its nice as well. I do like "Hell's Kitchen". I enjoyed the season of Survivor when they were in Australia, and I watched it just because I think the outback is pretty cool, but that's the only season of that show I've ever seen. It is kind of odd that they can call it "reality" TV. Any time a camera goes on, reality goes off. They even struggle with that when making documentaries.

kanishk November 2, 2009 at 2:06 PM  

I am a reality tv junkie.....I even watch the bad ones, just cant help myself..... Work From Home

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